This week saw our green pruning get underway, under the guiding hand of viticulturist Julio Prieto who came to spend a day assisting and advising our team. The aim of green pruning is to remove excess shoots so that the vines develop evenly, optimising production capabilities and ensuring a healthier vascular system to prolong the life of the vine. Each vine is unique and needs to be assessed individually. Bad pruning can significantly reduce the life of a vine and lifespan is something we’re obviously keen to optimise. For the moment we are concentrating on our young vines that are trained to a single post. Green pruning in our older bush vines will commence in around 10 days when we have over 5cm of shoot development.
Other vineyard work this week has included post installation on some of the younger vines and we’ve been out and about creating sexual confusion for the grape moth! Instead of spraying insecticides (we’re aiming for the most sustainable viticulture possible) we’re once again putting out these tags that imitate the pheromones emitted by the female to attract the male. The males fly around desperately seeking satisfaction but, in the pheromone haze are unable to find a female to mate with. This limits reproduction and thus damage to our grapes and leaves no residues on the grapes either.
This year has seen our white grape holdings increase: firstly with the acquisition of an old Macabeo vineyard in January. On the verge of being grubbed up due to its isolation, (920m above sea level and a few kilometres from the nearest village) we managed to purchase it just in time. Planted in 1969, (so 51 going on 52 just like us!) it has glacial soils with marl and clay. Long live Cerro Merino!
We’ve also carried out new plantings of 1 hectare of Garnacha gris (aka Garnacha Royo or Garnacha de los Muertos – Garnacha of the dead – due to its pink /grey skin colour and appearance ), 1 ha of Chenin Blanc ( it has long been our dream to incorporate this high acid, multi-dimensional white variety into our blends) and 5 hectares of Garnacha Tinta ( keep on keeping one) , Planted in the first 3 days of April these youngsters are now budding and we are rooting for every single plant. Now it is a race to stake every vine with an acacia post while our soils are still moist and receptive from the spring rains, so we can train each young plant and allow our team to work the soil between each plant with no damage to the delicate shoots.
What do we know about this year’s vintage so far?
Given the weather conditions this year, we’ve had very staggered bud break this year so this week we are green pruning the younger vines and we’ll move on to old vines next week. The extremely low temperatures during the Filomena snow storm in January has meant that a lot of buds are struggling to form and open. Bud burst has been very staggered and very prolonged this year.
Whilst 2021 was still in its infancy, Filomena arrived, bringing with her jawdroppingly low temperatures – plummeting to minus 18 degrees C in some parts of the region – over a period of around 5 days. The region hadn’t seen such heavy snowfall for around fifty years: the cold snap that followed was the most severe since 1945. Whilst we were left with some amazing images, the big freeze was harsh on the vines, as we had feared, and has left considerable damage in a few of our more exposed vineyards. Some arms and spurs on the bush vines have dried out which will make the green pruning mentally demanding as we look to reconstruct the vascular system and distribution of the plants remaining energy and reserves .
During the third week of April, international media was awash with romantic images of French vineyards illuminated by thousands of torches behind which lay the heartbreaking reality of another year’s crop being destroyed by frost. Many fruit producers in our region suffered the same fate and so we haven’t escaped unscathed either with damage in two or three of our vineyards: yields could be down 20 to 30% but it is still too early to make a definitive call on that.
Filomena aside, we’ve had a very dry start to the growing season with the only significant rainfall occurring over the past two weeks – around 50mm – and a little more expected over the next few days. The whole landscape has suddenly come alive with vibrant shades of green. This week, we’re enjoying blue skies and beautiful, sunny, warm weather which is definitely aiding our efforts in the vineyards (although I can hear a storm rumbling in as I write this, fingers crossed it isn’t bringing hail!)
It’s been a strange year all in all but that’s life when you work in agriculture. We’ll keep you posted with more information as things develop throughout the year.